Appearance, not functionality
It is solely the appearance of the product, and not its functionality which may be protected by design registrations. This implies that you will have an exclusive right to the product as it would be considered by a non-skilled observer.
What can you register?
A design is defined as “the appearance of a product or part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials of the product itself or its ornamentation”, ref. the Designs Act § 2.1.
A design is the appearance of a product, its shape and patterns. Anything that can be characterized as a product, and that fulfills the Designs Act, can be registered as a design.
Design applications are less complicated than patent applications
It is quicker, simpler and most often cheaper to apply for a design registration of the appearance of a product than to apply for a patent regarding the same. An application for a design registration solely contains exact drawings or photographs of a product seen from all relevant angles, and no text is required in most countries.
The importance of doing it right
Even though the design application is rather simple it is important to file in such a manner that the application fulfils the formal criteria. If the application is filed in an incorrect manner this may be detrimental to the application, it may for instance contain images of poor quality, images of the wrong prototype, the images of the prototype may show details that should not be part of the production model, such as text or the like.
The prosecution of the application
The application is filed with the Norwegian Patent Office, and if one so desires, an examination may be requested. The application may however be granted without examination although we would usually not recommend this. Once the design is registered one has obtained the exclusive rights to the product.
At the latest 6 months after having filed a design application in Norway one may file for a design registration abroad concerning the same design. If for instance Norway and Sweden are your main marketing areas it is possible to file an application solely in Sweden based on the Norwegian application.
If one wishes to sell the product throughout Europe it is possible to file a European Community Design which is valid in most of Europe.
Avoid copyists from Asia
We often recommend filing of design applications in countries of manufacture such as China and Taiwan or the like such that there is a possibility of voiding illicit copying in these countries.
Many of our clients do so as action against the copying of designs is taken in a resolute and timely fashion in these countries. There is thus an opportunity to act against piracy in these countries in a relatively cheap and swift manner.
Most countries allow the possibility to apply for design registrations, however the regulations differ somewhat from country to country. Not all countries allow continuations as described above.
Should you wish to file for design registrations abroad, we recommend that you contact our office.